Sen. Mark Udall discusses debt negotiations

Jul 14, 2011

Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) "has been an outspoken voice publicly and privately about the need to get something done to reduce spending and the debt." Sen. Mark Udall chatted about how he feels the United States should shrink its debt and his stance on debt negotiations.

Related: Grover Norquist discusses debt negotiations

Hi everyone, I’m glad to be with you for the next half hour to talk about what I think is one of the most serious challenges our country faces.  The clock is running out on the time to raise the debt ceiling – and on our ability to deal with our debt, and Congress is still at an impasse.  I think the American people are ahead of us on this one.  They want a comprehensive, bipartisan solution.  Our debt stands at over $46,000 per citizen - that's an outrageous number that is weighing down our economic recovery, costing us jobs and jeopardizing our status as the world's economic leader.

I’m a supporter of the recommendations put forward by the Bowles-Simpson Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, which would reduce the debt by over $4 trillion over the next decade, including spending cuts, reasonable entitlement reform and revenues generated from closing special interest tax expenditures.  And I’m doing everything I can to bring my colleagues together to support a real plan that will reduce spending, close wasteful tax loopholes and get our economy back on track.

Before we get started, I want to share two links with you.  First, here’s an open letter to Congress that I have on my website, sending the message that we need a sensible, bipartisan debt plan – over 5,000 Coloradans have signed it so far, and I invite you to add your name.  Second, here’s a great game that illustrates just how high the stakes are in our national budget – I helped roll it out yesterday, and I think you’d enjoy it as well. 

From one of your Colorado constituents: Why is it that Social Security is discussed during deficit reduction talks? Social Security, to my knowledge, has never added one cent to the deficit. Why, then, is Social Security even a topic when legislators consider how to lower the deficit?

You're right.  Social Security shouldn't be used to reduce the deficit, but by 2036 benefits will have to be cut by 20 percent.  So we do have an opportunity though in the context of strengthing our fiscal foundation to also strengthen Social Security.  It's also important to remember that the treasury owes Social Security trillions of dollars.  If we default on our debt or we don't generate the right mix of revenue policies, that revenue will be hard to find.  In the end though, you're right Social Security hasn't created this problem.  I always thought a lockbox for Social Security was the right way to go.  I'll be working in the coming weeks to ensure we strengthen Social Security -- to put the lock on the box so it can't be raided.

How will slashing the budget for services that assist the poor and middle class, while refusing to close tax loops for the wealthy, help promote job creation in a stalled economy?

It won't.  That's why you need the right balance between cuts and revenues.  We want to win the global economic race so we need to be smart about this and reduce our deficits without eating our seed corn.

Senator, you've championed a balanced budget amendment. It would seem there would be bi-partisan support given our current fiscal situation. Is there any pending legislation for this, and if not, why not?

In fact, I'm working on a balanced budget amendment that I hope can receive bipartisan support.  My proposal would have the right mix of living within our means while reserving the flexibility to address national emergencies.

Go Ephs, Senator Udall!

Purple Cows rock!!!

The US gives more than $58 Billion a year in foreign assistance. According to Forbes: Afghanistan $4 Billion; Pakistan $3.1 Billion, Israel $3 Billion, Egypt $1.5 Billion; requests for Russia $68.7M, China $12.9M, Nigeria $647.7M, Cuba $20M. WHY... when our Military and Seniors' paychecks are threatened? They served our country, most paid their taxes, yet their and our taxes continue to go to foreign countries? Isn't this like me spending, spending and spending yet not paying my bills? What will you do to help decrease our debt, stop foreign aid until we are back on solid ground and encourage the banks to loan money to small businesses?

Read the Simpson Bowles plan.  That's a thoughtful, bipartisan long-term plan to address all of the issues you're talking about, including foreign aid.

We're the world's leading power, for less than one percent of the budget, we're able to make strong, strategic investments in our national security abroad.  But I agree every dollar needs to be looked at, and I encourage you to use the budget tool I mentioned at the intro to see the impact of cutting foreign aid.

Why don't we hear more representatives talking about the Simpson-Bowles plan?

I wish everyone would talk about Simpson-Bowles.  They are patriots, I'm sure talking about it every chance I get.  Help me by spreading the word.

Sen. Udall, I'm so frustrated with the brinksmanship exhibited by the Republicans in this decision. Are they really willing to allow the nation to default or do you think the 'behind the scenes' negotiations are really more in good faith than they appear to us in public?

I'm frustrated too, and I hold out hope that cooler heads will prevail.  This is not only a threat, it's an enormous opportunity.  I think we need more statesmen and patriots and political courage.  There's an economic reward for us if we show the world we can make tough decisions and lead.

Native Coloradan and Outward Bound alum here: What is the overall warmth among your Democratic senators for entitlement program reform? At 41, I am likely to see reduced benefits when my time to retire comes, but I would rather see them reduced than eliminated. The President is right that now is the best time to address these problems. But it seems like there is resistence from a large number of Democrats to any discussion of entitlement reform at all. How deeply rooted and how broad is that resistance?

If everything is on the table, there's broad support from Democrats because it will strengthen Social Security for the long term if done right.  I want my kids and grandkids to be able retire securely.  That's why we're frustrated.  We're for an all of the above approach whereas Republicans want to protect their sacred cows.  You can't cut your way to winning the global economic race.

How can we change government so it works best for citizens and people over the long term?

Go to my website and look at my proposal for encouraging innovation and to help government run more effectively.  I'm asking Coloradans to weigh in with their suggestions here.

The Debt as it relates to entitlements has been going on since the 80's. Why is the federal government ineffective in making important decisions like these? Why does the country need to wait for crises as a way of accomplishment?

Ten years ago the federal budget was balanced.  We had surpluses as far as the eye could see.  I wanted to invest those surpluses to pay down the national debt.  Instead we had two unpaid for tax cuts, two unpaid for wars, and an unpaid for drug benefit and lax financial regulation.  Those are the precise ingredients for economic and fiscal collapse.  We know the treatment: an all of the above strategy like Simpson-Bowles.

I went to the UofA in the late 70's/80's. Met your dad. He was really amazing!!

Thanks so much.  You don't get to pick your parents. I got lucky.  My dad, above all, believed in citizen involvement.  He was a good Democrat, but he worked with Republicans who were inclined to be bipartisan like Dole and Goldwater and even President Reagan.  By the way, he gave a speech in his first month in the House, urging us to craft a system by which we pay for what we spend.   Thanks for the memories.

Thanks everyone for all the great questions.  Please sign my debt letter and stay involved!

In This Chat
Sen. Mark Udall
Mark Udall has represented Colorado in the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives since 1999. Udall’s assignments on the Armed Services, Energy and Natural Resources, Intelligence and Aging committees give him a platform to address issues important to Colorado, and he is known for reaching across party lines to solve problems. His work spans issues from energy and conservation, to promoting policies to stimulate innovation and help the private sector create jobs, to finding a common-sense solution to help reduce our national debt. Udall was born in Tucson, Arizona, but has spent his entire adult life in Colorado. An avid mountaineer, he moved to Colorado’s Western Slope to work for Outward Bound after graduating from Williams College in 1972. As Outward Bound’s executive director from 1985 to 1995, Udall gained firsthand experience running a business, which informs his work to advocate for business-friendly policies. He now lives in Eldorado Springs. He and his wife Maggie Fox have two children.
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